Muralist brings his talent to the Grand Strand

Art can be an easy offshoot from one’s occupation.

Tom Bishop of Garden City Beach has spent many of his 52 years on Earth in construction and remodeling. Back home in Mansfield, Ohio, he did more than have a mere brush with painting. He started big, with murals, and since moving in January to Garden City Beach to live close to his father, has begun scaling down a bit, to canvas-size works.

He’s close to finishing his self-portrait begun in March, inspired from a photo snapped of him two years ago on vacation reclining in a wooden chair, looking eastward from The Pier at Garden City, and soaking in the whole scene.

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“This is my first oil painting ever,” Bishop said last week, about the 40-by-30-inch work on the easel in his living room, “and my first painting on a canvas since I was a kid.”

Having sold his share in a granite counter shop business in Ohio, Bishop said he’s ready to focus on his artwork, with a goal it can become his bread and butter in the next decade.

“Everything I look at, everywhere I go,” he said, his mind stays at work, absorbing the environment and envisioning a subject for consideration “to go home and paint that.”

Because murals covering a building exterior or an interior wall can’t be packed, stored and put on exhibition, Bishop has built his own portfolio in a compilation on his Facebook page, BrushRush Murals.

Using his laptop computer to show the many photos shot of each work in formation, Bishop said since 1999, he has completed 15 murals in and around his hometown region.

Touring via computer the gym inside the Springmill Learning Center in Mansfield, Bishop showed how a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, rock-climbing mural, “my signature project,” came to life in 3D. He said his part was adding the “artwork into the wall,” across 3,000 square feet, including the floor and the traversing roots incorporated into the rope course in the former elementary school transformed into an outdoors education site.

Investing two months last year, often with 14-hour days, and 18 hours on the final day before its formal unveiling, Bishop enjoyed adding all indigenous plants and animals, an important element of his work.

Just the size and the whole re-creation of an outdoor ecosystem on a wall, and “doing it all on the wall,” Bishop said, “that part of it blows people away.”

Next, he showed snapshots from a children’s waiting room in the Northfield Medical Center in Ohio, where he painted a “Northwest Wilderness” on the wall. Flora and fauna such as bean plants, an eagle and raccoon fit in naturally.

Bishop said painting a poolside mural in three sections inside the Comfort Inn in Belleville, Ohio, he gave the scene a tropical sea look, including manatees. To paint animals, he said he relies on photos for guidance in his adding his touch.

At least one mural will stay alive solely through his memory and in pictures. He had redone two sides of a former building in Ohio – one with a panda theme, the other with crane birds – which was later torn down after the Chinese restaurateur moved his business. Still, Bishop cherishes that work from its era, and he said the former client and he remains friends.

Change of pace

Work on every mural begins differently, Bishop said, and no one section or object comes first, because each project develops as its own entity.

Turning more to “minimalizing” the size of his art of late to something that fits on an easel, Bishop said his self-portrait, for example, has come about through a wholly different pace, without any pressure. Whereas his murals have been contracted works, with deadlines and specifications from clients, doing his own autobiographical art image has easily occupied him for 100 hours.

Two flying brown pelicans have been added offshore, and he continues tweaking the wood grain and the pier rails. The rugged jeans with ruffles in the leg bottoms, the McDonald’s McCafe coffee in his hand, and the “laid-back attitude” sum up his state of mind of living here, so close to the ocean.

“That’s me,” he said. “I look at that painting. That is me.”

He doesn’t utilize any formula for his oil paintings, either, but starting with a blue field comforts him. Each project encompasses “building forward,” because “you have to put it on in layers.”

Some earlier works from years ago dot his own walls, including colored pencil and charcoal sketches of his now-grown daughter, Alex, at age 6, as well as a horse, and a facial profile of a pelican, with its long beak.

“Painting wasn’t my thing,” Bishop said. “It was always drawing.”

With age and experience, though, even without an art lesson to date, he has concluded for him, “Painting is easier than drawing.”

Experimenting with other mediums has taken a place on Bishop’s radar. He already has concepts under consideration for his next artwork. The storks he has seen congregate in woods by the causeway at Huntington Beach State Park could be “candidates for painting,” as could plentiful local fishing scenes.

Maybe the coastal architecture with seabirds will win the bidding as Bishop can’t help but kicking back and relaxing some afternoon in his new life down south, where the slower, relaxed lifestyle agreesd with him.

“It’s coastal,” he said. “It’s got to be coastal.”

Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.
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